Confusing crossing with faded lines contributed to fatal Langley crash

A number of factors, including driver distraction, may have caused the train collision.

A confusing railway crossing, an ambulance driver on a cellphone, and jurisdictional confusion were among the reasons for a fatal train and ambulance collision in 2015.

On Sept. 11, 2015, an ambulance was hit by a freight train at the railway crossing at 216th Street/Crush Crescent and Glover Road. The patient, 87-year-old Helena Theodora Van Gool of Langley, was airlifted to Royal Columbian Hospital but later died. The two paramedics were injured. No train crew members were hurt.

The Transportation Safety Board found that between the two crossings – including a local spur line – with multiple warning signals, the crossing was confusing.

In fact, Transport Canada was aware of the problems before the crash.

“This particular crossing was one of significant concern,” said TSB senior regional investigator Peter Hickli.

Transport Canada was working with both the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and CP Rail to upgrade the crossing’s safety warning equipment.

“Unfortunately, before any changes were made, the occurrence took place,” said Hickli.

VIDEO: DRIVER ON PHONE CONTRIBUTED TO CRASH

There was a further jurisdictional hiccup, as it wasn’t clear whether the Ministry of Transportation or Langley Township were in charge of road markings. Glover Road is a provincial highway, but Crush Crescent and 216th Street are municipal roads.

“The roadway markings at the crossing at the time of the occurrence were worn and degraded, making it difficult for vehicle drivers to appropriately position their vehicle for the intended route,” according to the official report. “It is likely that the ambulance was out of position in part due to the lack of a clearly marked left-turn lane, leading to the ambulance coming in close proximity to the westbound gate arm.”

The other factor mentioned in the report is the fact that the ambulance driver was making a cellphone call at the time of the crash. It was never determined whether the driver was using the phone hands-free. BC Ambulance Services bans the use of cellphones while on a call, and phones must be off, muted, or forwarded to another number.

Since the crash, a number of safety upgrades, including new road markings, signals, and changes to the location of safety equipment, have taken place around the crossing, Hickli said.